The Revolutionary Directory and the history of the revolution

Last May 8, Dr. Francisco Durán offered his daily press conference about the situation of COVID-19 in Cuba. On that same day was the anniversary of the assassination of Antonio Guiteras Holmes (1935). Not a single bit of news was shown about that leader of the Cuban liberation movement on national TV.

On the next day, May 9, our dear comrade and friend Commander Guillermo Jiménez Soler —Jimenito— passed away. He was a hero of the Revolution, a member of the Generation of the Centenary and a leader of the Directorio Revolucionario 13 de Marzo (the March 13 Revolutionary Directory). On that day there weren’t any news items either about his death in the printed press, the radio or TV.

This fact has a recent history. Several weeks earlier, between March 13 and 29, I received several pieces about a Mesa Redonda broadcast on the 13th. In it, journalist Arleen Rodríguez Derivet and the director of the Museum of the Revolution —housed by the former Presidential Palace— dealt with the topic of the Revolutionary Directory and the Attack on the Presidential Palace (1957). Specifically, the journalist stated —and didn’t ‘ask’— that the attack on the Palace ‘was against the agreements of the Mexico Charter’.

This constitutes a disapproving judgment, from an anti-unitary position, of the heroes who took part in the action, and implies a supposed disloyalty of the participants to the Mexico Charter.

The ignorance and distortion of the facts portrayed in that broadcast of the Mesa Redonda sparked debate. Replies to and denunciations of those who falsified and manipulated the facts appeared in blogs, web pages, social media and emails from various sources. [1] Until today, none of them has received a reply. The journalist later appeared in two broadcasts of the Mesa Redonda about the new coronavirus.

In contrast, the main critics of the program decided to wait —between March 13 and May 9—, out of respect for the fact that efforts and information were focused on the national struggle against the pandemic. In this interval of time, they deferred the position of principle against the distortion of the facts and against the intention of glossing over the historical memory of the DR-13 de Marzo.

However, both the Mesa Redonda of March 13 and the virtual silence in the official press during the first three days after the death of Commander Jiménez [2] are part of a deformation, [3] about which reflection is indispensable.

Historiography of the insurrectionary stage of the Cuban Revolution

The 26 of July Revolutionary Movement (MR-26-7) and the DR-13 de Marzo were the main organizations that brought the insurrection to a triumph in 1959. Both, in response to the coup d’état and the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, accepted as a common denominator that the moment was revolutionary, that is, that it required a program aimed at completely subverting the prevailing status quo in Cuba —not only the toppling of Batista—, which could only be achieved by way of armed struggle.

With that, they understood, in turn, that the moment was not ‘political’: there was no room for ‘legal solutions’, ‘agreements’, ‘peaceful resolution’, ‘temporary arrangements’ or ‘distractions’. For their part, parties which opposed the regime, without exception, took the political-electoral path to face the tyranny.

Part of the historiography on this stage, which privileges what has been codified as the ‘History of the Cuban Workers’ Movement’ [4], has inconsistently manipulated this process. It has integrated the insurrectional elements of the revolutionary process as part of this ‘workers’’ history, when they weren’t. This historical alteration has been opposed by specialists dealing with the stage of armed struggle and national liberation thought, in whose approaches stand out the unity between the 26 of July Revolutionary Movement and the FEU (the Federation of University Students), which signed the Mexico Charter on behalf of the Directory, in a joint statement made by Fidel Castro and José Antonio Echeverría. [5]

The treatment given to the attack on the Palace in the Mesa Redonda, and to the death of Jimenito in the official press, show the face of a bureaucratic dogma which has long endured among us: the Stalinist dogmatic tendency present in the official history [6], which conceived the historical content educational institutions made their own. [7] Said content was taught in curricula at all levels —Secondary, Pre-University, University and also, specifically, in Pedagogical Schools—, and it still crops up in some spaces among professionals and intellectuals.

The commitment of the PSP (Popular Socialist Party) with that path of action was maintained until the last months of 1958. In August of that year, it requested inclusion in the Civic Revolutionary Front of the Pact of Caracas, with the condition that ‘…not only the insurrectionary way be considered, but also the possibility of a peaceful solution through the electoral path, for the Cuban crisis’. For that reason, they were not accepted. In disagreement with that decision, they published a document addressed at the signatories of the Pact —which proposed armed struggle as the main tactic to be followed—, exhorting them once again to considering the political path to oppose the tyranny. [8]

That inconsistency by the PSP has been, and still is, manipulated.

In doing that, there’s been an attempt to substitute the patriotic, nationalist, anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist history of the Revolution —which introduced a program of national liberation rich in peculiarities that were distinctive and different from those of the European socialist bloc—, with a methodological method of analysis typical of ‘Soviet Marxism’.

Proof of that are the curricula drawn up in the final decades of the past century, and the ideological materials taught in study circles, which have underlined the role of the workers’ party, whose opposition model was that of peaceful resolution.

For that approach, it’s not about the unity that was actually forged in the insurrectionary stage of the Revolution, with different tactics and methods, but about simulating a unity that’s artificially conceived as uniform.

According to Jorge Ibarra Cuesta, the purpose has been to gradually de-nationalize Cuban History. The historian recalled that there was even an attempt to replace it —at pre-university level— with the subject of Workers’ Movement. It was a step in a wider plan: to introduce the Soviet model of analysis in most university courses. In this manner, a historical memory was being built which does not correspond with the reality of the historical process of the Cuban Revolution.

To this, Ibarra Cuesta added: ‘Today we’re beginning to gain awareness that history is not a servant to politics, but its most illustrious teacher. It has never attempted to provide solutions for those in the present, but merely to give them the tools to think about their current problems, thus revealing the dialectics of changes over time. That was Engels’s conception.’ [9]

This pro-Soviet trend has been confronted by another historiography of the insurrectionary stage of national liberation thought. This other approach, one of both professional and critical history, arises from José Martí’s words regarding the concept of modern revolution in a new era. It encompasses the American —and universal— experience that Martí’s ideology qualifies as a movement for freedom, which is found everywhere, and breaks with the elements of the old life as it treasures the elements and values that should endure in the new life. [10]

The facts mentioned above —the Mesa Redonda of March 13 and the scarce coverage of Jiménez’s death—, bring up many questions about the historical memory of the Cuban Revolution. They reproduce the methodological orientation of the historiography of real socialism regarding that stage, which obscures the choice of the ‘revolutionary moment’ and of all its participants, as opposed to the political way and its followers.

Personal experiences and historiography

On a personal level, I’m part of the trend which some of us have called ‘historiography regarding the insurrectionary stage and national liberation thought’. I am so not only as a historian, but also as a direct participant in the clandestine military structure in Las Villas, as a coordinator and head of the clandestine and guerrilla movement in the Cárdenas region (Matanzas), and as a member of the Provincial Direction of MR-26-7 in Havana.

To provide and produce testimony has been a fundamental part of our work.

The principle that the moment was ‘revolutionary’ and not ‘political’ took precedence since 1952. It was a principle of our revolutionary generation, known as the Generation of the Centenary of José Martí. Both the members of the DR-13 de Marzo and those of MR-26-7 embraced Martí’s ideology in implementing the project of the Cuban Revolution, which was yet unfinished at the time.

With this approach, I joined the students’ movement guided by the FEU, whose leaders in the former province of Las Villas organized the Pro-FEU Committee. That organization was consistent with the national leadership of the FEU, and specifically with the leadership of José A. Echevarría, once he became President of the students’ organization.

In the period after the assault on the Moncada Garrison (July 1953-June 1955) it was the FEU that played the leading role in the streets, together with the henequen and sugar sectors, in the insurrectionary struggle combination which was assembled together by students, workers, professionals, religious people, women and other social groups. [11]

I joined the MR-26-7 in Santa Clara, under the leadership of ‘Quintín’ Pino Machado. Quintín was a comrade of José Antonio Echeverría in the FEU’s struggle against the regime in Havana, and later integrated the Pro-FEU Committee in Las Villas. At the same time, he was provincial Chief of the MR-26-7’s Youth Brigades. In light of all of that, I acted under the insurgent leadership of the students’ movement, led by José Antonio Echeverría and Quintín Pino, and in the Movement led by Fidel Castro.

It wasn’t something rare in that process. In the struggle, there was always interaction between members of the DR-13 de Marzo and the MR-26-7.

One of the five comrades which made up the MR-26-7 Action and Sabotage Brigade in Las Villas —known among us comrades as ‘The Pentarchy’— was Agustín Gómez Urioste. ‘Chiqui’ —as we used to call him— was leader of the Directory in Santa Clara. He did not receive the summons to participate in the Attack on the Palace. With him we suffered the failure of the action and we bitterly cried for the martyrdom of José Antonio Echevarría’s and of the other fighters, and later for the news of the additional blow to the DR-13 de Marzo that was the massacre of Humboldt 7.

After the martyrdom of ‘Chiqui’ and of Julio [Pino Machado] after the explosion of the Bomb in Santa Clara —an action I survived—, I was sent by the MR-26-7 to the Provincial Direction of Matanzas. There, I was made head of the Cárdenas region, and we organized the revolutionary general strike, known as the April 9 Strike.

For that, under the order given by Fidel of ‘unity at the base’ with all the organizations and parties that were willing to join, we only received the support of the DR-13 de Marzo, the Authentic Organization and the Triple A.

The same happened during my appointment to the Provincial Direction of the MR-26-7 in Havana. I was Coordinator of the Base Revolutionary Cells, tasked with preparing the conditions for the advance of the Invading Column to the province of Pinar del Río in Operation Tobacco.

In the context in which I participated and led the MR-26-7 in the clandestine and guerrilla movement in the western part of the country, both forces —the DR-13 de Marzo and the MR-26-7— fought for the same goal: to achieve the triumph of the national liberation movement, by means of the insurrectionary path to Revolution.

The difference in the leaderships of those organizations lied in the strategic plan and the tactics to be followed in attaining victory. In spite of that, after the Attack on the Palace, the Directory adopted a new strategy and organized the revolutionary army in the Escambray Mountains.

For decades I have devoted myself to working in the historical reconstruction of that process. It has been a joint effort with Jorge Ibarra Cuesta (leader of the FEU in Oriente and member of the DR-13 de Marzo), and with Fernando Martínez Heredia —also a member of the MR-26-7—, both of them part of the revolutionary generation of José Martí’s centenary.

Together we have toiled so that our work in the field of social sciences, thought and ideology may contribute to fighting the phenomenon of falsification and manipulation of the historiography regarding the stage of national liberation (1952-1959).

Jorge and Fernando are no longer with us, but I’m certain that along with myself —as we always did when exchanging views— they would be proud, as I am today, of the stance assumed by those who have denounced the approach of the Mesa Redonda of last March 13. That program must be restructured due to the mistakes in principle made by the specialist, for not honoring the Attack on the Palace as a heroic deed; for denigrating its martyrs, qualifying it as a suicidal operation; for insulting its leadership claiming they were disloyal to the Mexico Pact; and for the method of omitting and/or falsifying the origin of documentary sources used in that program.

No response —I repeat— has been offered yet by those involved.

The coverage finally given to Jiménez’s death, and the broadcasting of a report (15.05-2020) with Juan Niury Sánchez —revolutionary fighter and former President of the FEU— showing the presence of José Antonio and other FEU leaders in the welcoming of Fidel and the Moncada fighters in 1955, could be an indirect response to the complaints expressed about that Mesa Redonda, but it doesn’t clearly show the necessary change in the understanding of those facts.

Politics, with science and memory

In the current fight against the new coronavirus, we’ve had a different kind of experience. In order to define the policies to be followed, the experience of Cuban medical science has prevailed, along with the informed study of the historical process —in the country and overseas— of this and other viruses, and the activation of the country’s scientific sector for the obtainment of vaccines which prevent infection or for statistical studies regarding seroprevalence.

This unites scientists from diverse fields such as medicine and mathematics, jointly carrying out interdisciplinary research. The problem, the method and the results of the research reveal the dialectics of the changes in the times we live in.

It’s a good decision by our Government to favor this flow of exchange between scientists in medicine, social sciences, the environment, and others. Together with the Party, the political and mass organizations and the people are fighting the pandemic with outstanding success in the current scenario, and are creating a new culture of physical isolation at home and of social discipline.

We equally need that same level of scientific analysis, that interrelation between research fields, that civic culture of responsibility and information, in order to face the no less complex challenges posed by our history and our memory. It’s essential so that justice isn’t only something sought by the living, but also the homage deserved by all our dead.

Havana, June 1, 2020

[1] See Rodolfo Alpízar, Rosario Alfonso Parodi (1), Rosario Alfonso Parodi (2), Esther Suárez Durán, Julio César Guanche (1), Julio César Guanche (2). Several critical opinions circulated by email about the content of the Mesa Redonda, including the ones of Julio Carranza Valdés (19.03.2020), Nyls Ponce Seoane (19.03.2020) and Lohania Aruca (22.03-2020). The latter is addressed to the presidency of UNEAC, the presidency of the Writers’ Association, the presidency of the Historical-Social Literature Section and to the members of UNEAC ‘about the denunciation of personalities in the Mesa Redonda of March 13, to be resolved by the authorities’.

[2] About the death of Guillermo Jiménez, see Jimenito, otra vez ninguneado. Rodolfo Alpizar Castillo. La Joven Cuba blog11 mayo 2020Ha muerto un héroe: Guillermo Jiménez Soler. Eduardo Delgado Bermúdez. Radio Habana Cuba, 11/05/2020; Gracias, Jimenito. María del Pilar Díaz Castañón. La trinchera, May 13, 2020; Jimenito, un hombre de la Revolución. Julio Antonio Fernández Estrada. Oncuba, May 14, 2020; Conocido como Jimenito. Rebeca ChávezGranma, May 12, 2020; Nota de la Academia de la Historia de Cuba ante el fallecimiento del académico Guillermo Jiménez Soler. Cubadebate, May 15, 2020.

[3] For the argumentation and analysis of this deformation, see: Jorge Ibarra Cuesta. Historiografía y Revolución. Journal Temas I (1) Havana, 1995.

[4] Instituto del Movimiento Comunista y de la Revolución Socialista, anexo al Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba. Historia del Movimiento Obrero Cubano. Volume II. 1935-1958. Editora Política/Havana, 1985. pp. 284, 288, 293, 308.

[5] José Bell Lara. Fase Insurreccional de la Revolución. Editorial Ciencias Sociales, 2007, Mexico Charter. p. 84.

[6] Criticism of this tendency can be found in: “Debate sobre la tesis de Abraham Fernández, con la tutoría del Candidato a Doctor Joaquin Vergara, del Instituto del Movimiento Comunista y la Revolución Socialista, anexo al CC del PCC, con profesores de Ciencias Sociales de la Universidad”, 1984. In: Manuel Graña Eiriz, El 9 de abril de 1958 Huelga General Revolucionaria. (2011); Also, of my authorship: Gladys Marel García Pérez. Insurrección y Revolución, Ediciones UNION 2006; Crónicas Guerrilleras de Occidente, Editorial Ciencias Sociales (2005); Confrontación Debate historiográfico, Editorial Requeijo S.A. (2005). See specifically: Jorge Ibarra Cuesta, Prólogo in the book Confrontación. cit.; Fernando Martínez Heredia. Prólogo in the book Insurrección y Revolución, cit.

[7] Jorge Ibarra Cuesta. Op. cit pp. 35-37. Esteban Morales, “Las Ciencias Sociales y humanísticas en la enseñanza universitaria. Limitaciones y dificultades”, p. 7 Source: estebanmoralesdomí, Havana, June 10, 2019.

[8] Rolando Dávila. Lucharemos hasta el final. Cronología 1958. Pact of Caracas, August 1958. p. 272.; and on p. 255, of August 13, Weekly Letter. Document of the National Committee of the PSP addressed to the signatories of the Pact of Caracas.

[9] See Jorge Ibarra Cuesta op. cit. pp 35-38

[10] See Note 3, Manuel Graña. Op.cit. and Garcia Perez. Op. cit. See Evelyn Picón Gardfield and Ivan A. Shulman: Las entrañas del vacío. Ensayos sobe la modernidad americana, Ed. Cuadernos Americanos, Mexico 1984.

[11] See Note 10, García Pérez, Op.cit.

Translated from the original

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1 comentario

Even 21 junio 2020 - 8:14 PM
I agree that the comments of the journalist on whether or not the attack was coordinated with the MR 26 of July weren’t politically inappropriate, but still my question is unanswered: was it coordinated or not?

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